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Celery and Celeriac

Celery – Apium graveolens
Celeriac – Apium graveolens var. rapaceum
Leaf celery – Apium graveolens var. secalinum

Both celery and celeriac are in the same Apiaceae, or parsley and carrot family, and have the same species name. Their cultural needs are similar, but for a very different outcome.

  • Celery is a tight stalk, 40–60 cm/16–24 in high, bred for its stems from wild celery which is taller and thinner, its stems more fibrous. Wild celery is valued for leaves and seeds.
  • Celeriac has been selectively bred from celery to achieve its swollen root. Sometimes it’s called root or turnip-rooted celery, but there is no relationship to turnip.
  • Leaf or Chinese celery has thinner stems and a strong taste and smell. Its leaves, and sometimes stems, are used in soups and stews.

A head or plant of celery comprises many edible stalks and leaves.

The harvested root of celeriac is a bulbous hypocotyl, a swollen portion of root just above the main root system. This is similar to carrots and beetroot but not potatoes, which are tubers.

1st November, with autumn lettuce and celeriac – the latter has a little Septoria disease, but not too much, see ‘Diseases’ below
With a selection of celery on 6th August – Victoria and Hadrian, from a March sowing
Harvesting celeriac, with wood blewit mushrooms attached; we ate these mushrooms, which had grown from woody bits in my compost

Harvest period

  • Days from seed to first harvest: celery 100–130, celeriac 180–250.

Why grow them


Widely acknowledged for its health benefits, celery is even juiced to extract more of the goodness. I understand the reasoning but feel that this is a waste of valuable fibres! Chopped, homegrown celery stalks add wonderful flavour and texture, to salads in particular.

  • Homegrown celery is high in cellulose or fibre, and needs a lot of chewing. The fibres are softened by cooking, and you can also use the leaves when making stock.
  • Bought celery has usually been grown with synthetic fertilisers and maximum amounts of water to increase growth. The look is impressive and the texture is tender, but the flavour is less strong.

I value my celery a lot and miss it in winter and spring. But that is the joy of eating seasonally, how one values food far more when it’s naturally available. Plus it offers the nutrition we need at that time of year, and the microbes too.

Victoria celery in late June, from sowing in mid-March, and very little slug damage
Granada celery on 28th November – this was a second sowing of 2nd June, transplanted between carrot plants where there were gaps from poor emergence

Charles’ Celery Salad

I like this for breakfast, when celery is in season. In winter you could use a cup of celeriac instead, chopped very small or grated, and add lambs lettuce for green.

  • 4–6 stalks of celery, chopped small
  • 1 apple, chopped very small
  • Handful of walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A little chopped onion, to taste
  • A little balsamic vinegar and salt, plus oil if you wish


The dense roots are full of goodness and store well through winter, even into the hungry gap. They taste great in salads, grated or chopped small.

There’s a lot of flavour in a small amount of homegrown celeriac. Keep a large one in the kitchen, because even after cutting bits off they are good to use for over two weeks.

  • You can also eat celeriac leaves, but they are extremely fibrous, except for the newest ones in the middle. Best use is to make stock or perhaps soup.
4th July – you can see celeriac interplanted in this bed by the peas, which now have mildew
11th July – a week later, the pea plants have been cleared; you can see many plantings that were already in there, including the celeriac
By 18th October you can see significant growth of the celeriac and leeks; in November, these celeriac plants returned 3.5 kg/7.7 lb from five roots

Pattern of growth

These plants are biennial, so they will not flower in the first year and just continue growing. Celery stalks, however, from the first sowing in early spring, become more fibrous by late summer.  In autumn, celery is more tender from the second sowing in late spring.

If a celery root system or celeriac root is left in the ground through winter and survives frost plus the damp, it will make flowering stalks through spring.

Celery seed is a valuable spice and this would be harvestable in late summer, one or two months after flowering finishes.

Celery was planted on 16th May, after a crop of spinach; by the start of August we have harvested many, and some remaining stems are less tender and have a number of side shoots
A second sowing by 17th August – Hadrian at the near end and Victoria at the far end, sown on 22nd May and transplanted on 2nd July; the space behind is from after having cleared wild rocket
20th July – the year’s final planting of celery is in the polytunnel, replacing some French bean plants; these celery were sown on 7th June

Suitable for containers/shade?

They can be grown in shade.

Celery is the most worthwhile for containers since it needs less space than celeriac. Always beware of slugs, perhaps hiding under pots.

Types of celery

Celery used to be grown for eating in winter and early spring, and was called trench celery. This was from varieties that took a full season to grow large and were transplanted in a trench or furrow. Then, in autumn or early winter, they were mounded up with soil, to blanch the stems and make them sweeter.

This process involves a lot of work in the growing, harvesting and cleaning of the stems. Nowadays one almost never sees trench celery, although you occasionally see reference to it in seed catalogues or gardening articles.

I do not recommend blanching celery with soil, for these reasons:

  • There is a lot of soil movement which damages soil life.
  • The presence of soil around celery stalks often results in slugs eating them, and I suspect poisons were used to prevent this, although it’s not always made clear.
  • It’s a lot of work!
Blanched celery at an RHS show in October – this can be created by tying cardboard around the stem to maintain darkness

The opposite of trench celery is self-blanching celery, although this term is now less used. We don’t need to differentiate it from the rarely grown trench celery. Close spacings mean that the shade of celery leaves do a fair amount of blanching to the stalks, making them less bitter.

Why the perceived need to blanch? It’s a good question and I believe this comes partly from the English aristocracy, who sought a degree of perfection in their vegetables and were even competitive about it. In my view, they did a lot of unnecessary work – or rather their gardeners did!

  • They wanted sweetness and special flavours, while perhaps ignoring the rounded flavours and nutritional quality of unblanched vegetables .
  • They had a large labour force with spare time in winter months.
  • They did not know that some bitterness is good for our health.



I struggled to grow juicy celery until I discovered the F1 variety Victoria. It is streets ahead of the ones I had grown before, such as Tall Utah and Golden Self Blanching, whose stems, nowadays, are mostly smaller and less juicy.

  • Victoria grows more vigorously than other F1 varieties. Hadrian is ready a little earlier and is slightly smaller.
  • Granada F1 has resistance to Septoria, and I recommend it for the second sowing in late spring or even early summer – see the photo below.
  • Loretta F1 grows a smaller celery, with a more yellow colour.

There are several varieties which grow pink stalks. Not really pink though, more just a pink tinge at the base of each stem.

Victoria celery in mid-September, 11 weeks after planting; it followed chard
Tall Green Utah celery in August, from a March sowing – however, despite the name, it was vertically challenged!
The effects of Septoria, a disease that turns the leaves and stem brown; Granada at the bottom and Victoria at the top, from the same sowing date, weighing 320 g/11.1 oz and 80 g/2.8 oz respectively, after being trimmed


I find Prinz always grows a reliably large harvest, and Monarch too.

Giant Prague, by contrast, has given me higher proportions of leaf to root. For this reason, be careful of heritage varieties.

In a taste test by Raymond Blanc and his chefs, they found little difference in flavour between several different varieties.

A very strong planting of Giant Prague celeriac in December, at 40 cm/16 in spacing, the leaves still healthy
In contrast, an unimpressive December harvest of a heritage celeriac variety, whose name has disappeared from my records!

This lesson has three videos, one on celeriac here and two on celery below, both with much detail.

sow & propagate
Transplant - Size, time of year, Spacing, support
container growing
Prune and train plants/thin fruit
Harvest times and method
Potential problems


To clear beds after a celery harvest, use a trowel to cut the largest roots just under the base, and clear the main base to compost. This leaves the main root system in soil, as food for soil life.

For celeriac, it’s mainly a question of raking level and then spreading the end-of-season mulch of compost, around 2.5 cm/1 in.

Follow with

Summer celery can be followed with spinach, chard, salads and pak choi.